BUTTE – Tiahna Vladic may as well have been running by herself during last Friday’s Swede Dahlberg track and field invitational.
The Billings Senior junior clocked a season-best 5:09.76 in the 1,600-meter run, crossing the finish line seven seconds ahead of the runner-up. As soon as the smoke from the starting gun cleared, Vladic had raced to the front of the pack and remained there for the entirety of the race.
“I think it went to plan,” Vladic said of her pre-race strategy. “It was a hard week of practice, so you have to go push it in these meets, especially since we have so much competition, even if most of the girls I’m competing against (this season) didn’t run (the mile on Friday), it’s still nice to get around to other parts of the state and race against the girls around here.”
“Definitely when you’re running by yourself it’s hard. You don’t really know what your pace is, it feels like you’re going fast but you’re by yourself so you’re like, ‘OK, maybe I am going fast.’ When you have other tough competition you go faster all the time.”
Vladic met one of her greatest rivals, Annie Hill in the 800, finishing in second place behind the Kalispell Glacier product, while Bozeman’s Camila Noe took the 3,200 crown. It was the fifth meet of the season for Vladic, who placed third in last spring’s 800 and 3,200, while earning a fourth-place finish in the 1,600. She captured runner-up honors in the State AA cross country meet in October, with each of those races building toward her season-ending goals on the track.
“I think I’m heading in the right direction for where I want to be. We still have a lot of meets to go to, even though we’ve had two cancelled, we’re still doing hard practices,” she said. “I think right now I’m happy with where I am. I kind of wanted my time to be a 5:05 (in the mile at the Dahlberg), but sometimes you don’t get what you want and have to keep pushing.”
She’s certainly willing to do that and isn’t afraid of the extra work it may take. Vladic’s personal bests in all three distance races came her freshman season, though she’s inched close to each over the past two years, offering personal motivation for the remainder of her junior campaign.
“I’ve only run the mile once before (the Dahlberg) because I’ve been focusing on the two-mile to get my endurance up, and I ran a 5:15 or so the first time, so I’m improving, hoping to keep improving and hopefully go sub-five minutes or close to it before state,” she said.
She won’t be running by herself at that state meet, but as she chases PRs and state titles, perhaps that’s a good thing.